Havana Blocks Airport Visit By US Department of Homeland Security 2

Syracuse

Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, says the Cuban government has blocked his planned congressional delegation visit to look at security at Cuban airports. Katko is shown chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee meeting in May 2016 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Provided photo) Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, says the Cuban government has blocked his planned congressional delegation visit to look at security at Cuban airports. Katko is shown chairing a House Homeland Security subcommittee meeting in May 2016 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Provided photo)

Cuba blocks visit from Rep. John Katko, delegation from Congress

By  Mark Weiner | mweiner@syracuse.com,  The Syracuse Post-Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cuba has denied visas to U.S. Rep. John Katko and a delegation from the House Homeland Security Committee that wanted to visit this weekend to inspect airport security.

Katko, chairman of a subcommittee on transportation security, said Friday that the congressional delegation visit was called off at the last minute after the Cuban government blocked the trip.

Katko, R-Camillus, and members of the congressional delegation wanted to assess security risks at Cuban airports before the start of daily commercial air service with the United States later this year.

‘We tried for over a month and a half to get visas, and we couldn’t get them,” Katko said in an interview Friday.

Katko said his delegation had planned to visit airports in Havana, smaller airports in other Cuban cities, and stop at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

At a hearing last month, Katko and other members of the Homeland Security Committee questioned whether proper security screening equipment and procedures will be in place before the start of more than 100 roundtrip commercial flights per day with the United States.

“Our job is to look at last point of departure airports around the world, and they’re not letting us do it,” Katko said Friday. “Some experts believe Cuba could become a gateway to the U.S. for terror suspects from Europe. But they’re not even letting us take a look at their airports”

Katko and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, have said they felt stonewalled by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials who declined to answer questions about the security capabilities of Cuban airports.

The House members wanted to know if Cuba had adequate body scanners, explosive detection equipment, and the ability to screen for fraudulent passports or IDs. The committee also wanted to know if federal air marshals would be allowed on flights to and from Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Security Visit Blocked

Leftist Attorney and “Journalist” Eva Golinger Interviews Cuban Spies 1

Cuba's Ministry of the Interior -- home to its security and intelligence services

The Ministry of the Interior — home to Cuba’s security and intelligence services

My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five

by Eva Golinger, Counterpunch

It was nearly nine o’clock that Wednesday December 17, 2014 when I saw a tweet by Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban spies who had been imprisoned in the United States for over a decade. THEY RETURNED! I had to look twice. Could it be true? I quickly started searching in newspapers and digital media for any news about the Five, as they were known in Cuba, but all pointed to Rene’s tweet. Minutes later, in three consecutive tweets Rene presented concrete evidence to allay any doubts. The papers for the release from prison of Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio were signed. They were free.

Previously, on December 4, Gerardo was abruptly transported from the maximum security prison in Victorville, California where he had spent most of his 16 year prison term and taken to a penitentiary center in Oklahoma City. Without knowing why he was there he was put in the “hole”, another term for solitary confinement in a cell with no window or contact with other prisoners, subjected to brutal and inhumane treatment by the guards. He was left there for eleven days. On December 15, he was suddenly transferred to a prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina. He was not even given time to gather and bring the few personal possessions he had accumulated over the last 16 years in prison.

Across the country in Florida, Antonio was awoken at five o’clock in the morning on Monday December 15, in his prison cell in Marianna, a medium security penitentiary. He was only told to pack his personal items, nothing more. He complied, not knowing where he was being taken or why. He was then transported in a private jet to the prison hospital in Butner. There, he thought he’d have to adapt again to a new surrounding and make his life in that prison.

That same day, Ramon, still registered under the false name he used during his intelligence mission in the United States, Luis Medina, was also taken from his cell in Georgia to the prison hospital in Butner. He wasn’t given any instructions or information about the reason for his transfer. It was not until the next day, on December 16, that all three – Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio – met face to face in the same place, and they knew from that moment on they were going home.

They found it impossible to contain their happiness. Between smiles, jokes and hugs, US officials got so nervous that when they brought the three of them to the plane on the early morning of December 17, they forced them to speak English. Perhaps the feared Castro-spies would still be conspiring against the country that had deprived them of their freedom for the past 16 years. In a final blow, as the plane approached their homeland, the authorities covered the windows of the plane. They couldn’t even see the arrival into Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Counterpunch

 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: President Obama Posed In Front of The Ministry of the Interior, From Where All Repression in Cuba is Orchestrated 2

President Obama Enjoys a Photo Op in front the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)

President Obama Enjoys a Photo Op in front the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)

Obama’s Photo Op With Che Guevara Wasn’t The Worst Thing About The Picture

By Hank Berrien, The Daily Wire

After President Obama posed for a picture in Cuba in front of a giant mural honoring the murderous Che Guevara, outrage erupted in the Twittersphere.

But it’s worse than that.

As Ethan Epstein of The Weekly Standard points out, the mural in the Plaza de la Revolucion is painted on the wall of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior, which runs the National Revolutionary Police, Cuba’s version of the secret police. Britannica.com writes, “The Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT), which was modeled on the Soviet KGB, rivaled the East German Stasi for effectiveness and ruthlessness.”

Former Cuban Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra has been described by the Miami Herald as “one of the island’s most powerful and feared figures.” As Yoani Sanchez, the publisher of 14ymedio, an independent newspaper in Cuba, wrote in The Huffington Post, “How can a citizen protect himself from a State that has the police, the courts, the rapid response brigades, the mass media, the capacity to defame and lie, the power to socially lynch him and turn him into someone defeated and apologetic?” Sanchez has written that she has been kidnaped and beaten by plainclothes State Security agents.

Human Rights Watch offered a report on the Cuban government’s repression. It stated:

The Interior Ministry has principal responsibility for monitoring the Cuban population for signs of dissent. Reportedly, the ministry employs two central offices for this purpose: the General Directorate of Counter-Intelligence (sic) and the General Directorate of Internal Order. The former supervises ……

Feature Continues Here:  How to Crush a Dissent’s Hope With One Photo

 

A Cautionary Lesson For America: “In Tourist-Deluged Cuba, Canadian Firms Are Noticeably Absent” Reply

Stephanie Nolen

Stephanie Nolen

Stephanie Nolen  — The Globe and Mail

HAVANA – The cobbled streets of Old Havana are choked with tourists these days: sweaty, sunburned tourists from the United States, most of them, who make the rounds of the small hotels in the morning to beg and plead. But it does little good: There isn’t a room – or, often, a café table or a taxi – to be had. The tourists just keep coming – arrivals are up 62 per cent this year. But the city’s limited tourist infrastructure is bursting at the seams.

“It’s a big problem,” said Omar Everleny, an economist at the Centre for the Study of the Cuban Economy in the capital. “Havana is 100 per cent full.” The U.S. visitors have seized on new freedom to visit since the United States and Cuba normalized relations a year ago this week, but they are still mostly restricted to Havana. Yet beyond the capital, in the beach resort mecca of Varadero or the keys to the north, occupancy is also near-full, and there is a huge unmet market for beachfront rooms, sailboat slips and villas. A much-heralded process of economic reform is under way in Cuba, and foreign investment laws were made significantly more favourable for investors earlier this year – and yet the level of building pales in comparison to the size of the demand, in tourism and other sectors.

That’s due in part to the U.S. embargo, which remains firmly in place despite a year of détente. The ongoing tight control of all major economic activity by the state, and the still-strangling bureaucracy, means everything happens slowly.

But many people here – both Cubans and the handful of foreigners based in the country on behalf of international firms – express surprise that Canadian companies, in particular, aren’t a bigger presence, taking advantage of the lull before the looming U.S. storm, to build on their historical edge.

“Canadian companies could and should take advantage of the fact that they can be here already and know Cuban institutions,” said Raul Rodriguez, a researcher with the Centre for Hemispheric and United States Studies at the University of Havana. “Why aren’t there more Canadian infrastructure companies, more interests, given that there are more than one million Canadian tourists?”

“There should be a Tim Hortons in Varadero,” he added.

Feature Continues Here: Canadian Businesses Avoid Cuba

 

 

Take Cuba Off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List? 7

 FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014


FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014

By George Phillips, InterAmerican Security Watch

Let us not give Castro the resources he needs to continue his regime’s 56-year reign of terror on his own people, and his continued support for terrorists and terrorist states.

To enrich and solidify that dictatorship at this time only prevents the Cuban people from being able to forge a better life through elections in a few years, now that they are finally “on the one-yard line,” when the Castro brothers, now in their eighties, could simply be left to their natural, un-bankrolled, ends. In a dictatorship such as this, only the dictators benefit.

As Sonia Alvarez Campillo was leaving Catholic Mass on July 14, 2013 with fellow members of Ladies in White, her pro-democracy organization, she was assaulted by Raul Castro’s agents.

These “security” agents broke Alvarez Campillo’s wrist as well as her husband’s ribs in their attack on her and other members of her group.

Sunday after Sunday in Cuba, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) — members of a movement started in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents in Cuba — have peacefully demonstrated for freedom and human rights in cities across Cuba. They have continually been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned in Raul Castro’s Cuba.

In an attack just two months ago, Lady in White member Digna Rodriquez Ibañez was pelted with tar by agents of the regime.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation – an organization of Cuban dissidents that the Castro regime claims is illegal — reported that in 2014 alone, 1,810 members of the Ladies in White were detained. The detentions of these extraordinary women are among the total of 8,899 detentions evidently designed to crush political dissent. That figure represents a 27% rise from the previous year.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement, a political party opposed to Castro’s Communist Party.

In July of 2012, Cuban state security agents allegedly murdered Paya and Cepero by ramming into their car and running them off the road, where they crashed and died.

The Cuban government officially claims the crash was an accident. But, as documented in the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2013, when David Gonzalez Peres, another leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was arrested, Cuban officials at the jail warned him about what happened to Paya.

Paya and Cepero were most likely murdered for trying to change a system in which all 612 candidates in a recent Cuban election were members of the Communist Party and ran unopposed, and in which all other candidates had been rejected by the regime.

Article continues here:  Terror List

 

 

 

 

Eslovaquia concede refugio a mayor del MININT 8

DTI-carnéEl mayor Ortelio Abrahantes dice tener pruebas del “accidente” donde falleció Osvaldo Payá y pide contactar con su viuda, Ofelia Acevedo

CubaNet

Desde Bratislava, capital de Eslovaquia, el mayor del Ministerio del Interior Ortelio Abrahantes concedió a MartíNoticias su primera entrevista a un medio de prensa desde que el pasado 17 de marzo abandonó el centro de detención Carmichael Rd, en Nassau, Bahamas, donde permaneció preso casi un año.” La República de Eslovaquia me ha acogido como refugiado a propuesta de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas, ANCUR”, confirmó el militar.

Abrahantes asegura que tanto ACNUR como el gobierno eslovaco tomaron en cuenta la “información que poseo en torno a la muerte de los opositores cubanos Oswaldo Paya y Harold Cepero”.” Por esta vía quiero reiterar el llamado a la familia Payá para que me contacte, tengo mucho que aportar a este caso, pruebas convincentes que debo compartir con Ofelia Acevedo, viuda de Payá”.

Abrahantes de 43 años alcanzó el grado de mayor en el MININT y al momento de abandonar Cuba en una embarcación en marzo 2014 por el norte de Camagüey, desempeñaba como jefe provincial de transporte terrestre y marítimo del organismo de orden interior enCiego de Ávila. Allí dejo a su esposa e hijos. Ha sido sometido a rigurosos interrogatorios por parte de las autoridades eslovacas, según dijo, “están muy interesadas en lo que sé del aparato militar cubano, lo que conozco acerca de la participación del gobierno de Cuba en el tráfico de drogas”.

“Amigos confiables en el extranjero han mantenido a buen resguardo la evidencia que sustentará lo que la familia Payá ha denunciado, que la seguridad del estado ocasionó el supuesto aparatoso accidente en el que murieron Payá y Cepero y que por lo menos Payá, llegó con vida al hospital de Bayamo”. Abrahantes prefirió no hacer comentarios sobre qué pruebas específicamente tiene en su poder e indicó que las hará pública en su momento.

Preguntado sobre si tiene planes de viajar a Estados Unidos, dijo que “de inmediato no, pero puede haber sorpresas, todo es possible” Por ahora, ya inició una nueva vida en Eslovaquia, que fue parte de la Checoslovaquia comunista, “y que conoce la represión, la censura de libertades civiles, y los desmanes de la policía política que tuvo nexos estrechos con el régimen cubano”.El frío, la barrera del idioma, en fin, “son muchos los obstáculos a sortear, pero soy un hombre libre, y ojo, sin perder de vista los movimientos de la embajada de Cuba, la mano de los Castro es larga”.

 

How Obama’s Cuba Deal Is Strengthening Its Military 1

PoliticoCastro’s Real Heirs are the Generals, and They’re Going to Make a Bundle From Normalization

By James Bruno, Politico Magazine

In the hit 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s fictional Colonel Jessup famously declares: “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me.” The Cuban officers I met never gave me that impression. As the State Department’s former representative to negotiations with Cuba’s military, I can tell you that our discussions were typically convivial and constructive. And today, President Barack Obama’s initiative to normalize relations with Havana has presented the United States with a truly mind-boggling prospect: Our most reliable partner on that long-isolated island is probably going to be the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, Cuba’s military establishment.

And soon they’re going to be making a lot of money.

The Communist Party of Cuba may constitute the country’s political leadership, but it is seen increasingly as an anachronism by the population and after Fidel Castro, 88, and Raúl Castro, 83, pass from the scene, the party may too. Cuba’s legislature, the National Assembly of People’s Power, is a rubber stamp appendage of the party and likewise held in low popular esteem. Civilian agencies have proven inept and sclerotic in managing government programs. The powerful Ministry of Interior is widely feared as the blunt instrument of oppression, but it too is likely to be swept aside eventually by the tide of change. And more than a half-century of authoritarian single-party rule has stunted civil society and held the Catholic Church in check.

This leaves the FAR. Under Raúl Castro’s leadership from 1959 until he succeeded brother Fidel as president in 2006, the now 60,000-strong military has been widely considered to be Cuba’s best managed and stablest official entity. Furthermore, it has never been called upon to fire on or suppress Cuban citizens, even during the so-called Maleconazo protests in 1994, and most observers believe the FAR would refuse any orders to do so.

For years our discussions with the FAR have focused on cooperating on practical matters: avoiding tensions along Guantánamo Naval Base’s 17-mile perimeter, collaborating on firefighting and working out arrangements for the return of Cuban citizens who were picked up at sea while trying to escape their country. In contrast with our stiff exchanges with the North Koreans at Panmunjom, these monthly encounters tend to be productive, constructive and amiable.

Read more: Politico

Cuban Officer Held At Detention Centre Classed As Refugee 6

Major Ortelio Abrahantes

Major Ortelio Abrahantes

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter, Tribune 242 (Bahamas)

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE CUBAN military officer being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre has been classified as a refugee by the United Nations, according to legal counsel for the detainee yesterday.

Lawyer David Alvarez confirmed to The Tribune that he is also in talks with a US federal agency, which has requested the approval of the Bahamas government to interview his client Mayor (Major) Ortelio Abrahantes.

After more than five months at the detention centre, Mr Alvarez said his client was optimistic for a possible resolution to the “political tug of war” over his life.

“It has been very frustrating,” he said, “it seems like he’s in a political tug-of-war, and he’s caught in the cross fire of what I’m trying to do, which is save his life, and the Cuban officials. He has a lot of information, sensitive information that may be of interest.” Mr Alvarez said: “the Bahamian government is in the middle of this, I know they have a relationship with both American and Cuban officials.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that he had “no comment on the matter.”

Mr Abrahantes is said to be an officer of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, who has defected with sensitive information involving operations conducted by the Cuban government.

According to reports, Mr Abrahantes was taken to the Bahamas on March 27 after a sail boat he was aboard was intercepted by the US Coast Guard.

Requests for assistance from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) have been successful, according to Mr Alvarez, who said the agency has submitted their recommendations to the Bahamas government.

“(UNHCR) said my client classifies as a refugee and should not be sent back to Cuba for his own safety and in compliance with international law. They are also going to start asylum proceedings.”

Calls placed to UNHCR representative for the Bahamas, Katie Tobin, were not returned up to press time.

Feature continues here: Major Abrahantes

 

Arnaldo Ochoa — a Problem For Castro Brothers 25 Years Ago 4

Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989 (Courtesy: Miami Herald Archives)

Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989 (Courtesy: Miami Herald Archives)

Castro’s fears led to a revolutionary hero’s execution and drunken binges by his brother Raúl, according to a former security officer.

By Juan O. Tamayo

JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Fidel Castro was so afraid of a revolt in Cuba’s most elite paramilitary unit that he ordered his motorcade to avoid driving past its base, his top bodyguard at the time says. Raúl Castro was so depressed that he was going on drunken benders and soiling his pants.

Cuba’s top military hero, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, had been executed by firing squad for drug smuggling. And a longtime member of Fidel’s innermost circle, Interior Minister José Abrantes, was in jail awaiting trial for failing to stop the trafficking.

That summer 25 years ago posed one of the toughest challenges ever for the Castro brothers — to show that their top deputies had trafficked drugs without their consent, and to avert a backlash from other soldiers who believed the Castros were lying.

“That was the drop that overflowed my glass,” said Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, 65, who served 17 years on Fidel’s personal security detail and now lives in Miami. “That he would send to the firing squad a man who was a true hero.”

Ochoa, 59, was Cuba’s top military icon. He was a veteran of campaigns in Angola, Venezuela, Ethiopia and Nicaragua, had won the country’s highest honor, Hero of the Revolution, and sat on the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Nevertheless, he was executed on July 13, 1989, along with three senior officers of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior (MININT), after a military court convicted them of drug smuggling and treason.

Ochoa was not plotting to overthrow Fidel, as was rumored at the time, said Sánchez, who in 1989 stood at Fidel’s elbow as keeper of the diary of the Cuban leader’s daily activities. Ochoa did not have the troops or the means to carry out a coup, he added.

But evidence presented at their trial showed that Ochoa and the three others who were executed — Antonio de la Guardia, Jorge Martinez and Amado Bruno Padron — had arranged cocaine shipments through Cuba and to the United States for Colombia’s Medellin cartel.

Abrantes, one of Fidel’s oldest and closest aides, a former head of his security detail and a general, was arrested later with six other MININT officers for failing to stop the drug traffic and corruption. He died of a heart attack in 1991 while serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Fidel had approved Abrantes’ involvement in drug trafficking, Sánchez alleged. And Raúl, then minister of defense, had approved Ochoa’s involvement. Military Counter-Intelligence (CIM), which reported directly to Raúl, had to have known of Ochoa’s activities, yet no CIM agent turned up at either trial as defendant or witness.

 Feature continues here: General Arnaldo Ochoa

Cuba Says it Arrested Four Miami Men Plotting a ‘Terrorist’ Attack 3

Headquarters of Cuba's dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo -- Havana Times]

Headquarters of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo — Havana Times]

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Three militant Cuban exiles in South Florida on Wednesday denied a Havana allegation that they ordered four men arrested in Cuba to attack military installations — the first such violent plot reported in more than a decade.

A Cuban Interior Ministry statement said Miami residents Raibel Pacheco Santos, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Félix Monzón Álvarez and José Ortega Amador were arrested April 26 but gave few other details.

The four men “admitted that they planned to attack military installations with the objective of promoting violent activities,” the statement said, adding that three of them had traveled to Cuba in 2013 to study and plan their attack.

Cuba’s announcement may be linked to its inclusion last week in a U.S. list of countries that support international terrorism, the three Havana spies in U.S. prisons and perhaps even the desperation of an elderly exile, analysts in Miami said.

Pacheco, 31, a Hialeah resident, registered a “Cuban Liberation Force Inc.” with the Florida Department of State in 2009 and listed its purpose as helping “the people in Cuba to win back their democracy and their lost liberties.”

The only post on its blog says the organization was “founded at the request of members of the armed forces who are inside Cuba, as well as members of organizations and the people” with its only goal being “the toppling of the regime.”

Rodriguez and Monzón attended some meetings of exile militants in Miami six or seven years ago but were not well known in the community and were not known to be members of any particular anti-Castro organization, said Miami radio host Hector Fabian.

The Interior Ministry statement late Tuesday said the four men detained in Cuba confessed that their plans for “terrorist actions” have been “organized under the direction” of Miami exiles Santiago Álvarez Fernández, Osvaldo Mitat and Manuel Alzugaray.

“This, I did not do,” said Alvarez, 72, a long-time militant exile and wealthy real estate developer imprisoned from 2005 to 2009 for illegal possession of firearms allegedly stockpiled for raids on Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Cuba Arrests Four